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When I was in my early 20’s (wow it makes me feel old to say that), I began my search for Jersey cows. I bought my first Jersey heifer in the summer of 2012. My Grandma had raised Jerseys and sold milk back in the day. So they were what my Mom had memories of milking. They (generally) have great dispositions and personalities. And really, who can resist their sweet big-eyed faces? (Check out my free printable checklist for buying a family cow!)
I looked for several months for just the right fit. Eventually I found a local guy who had just a few Jersey cows. My Mom and I went to check out the heifer he was selling, and I of course fell in love with her. He had enough milk from his other milk cow and didn’t need two, and that was his reason for selling her…or so he said.
When we went to pick her up, one of his little daughters said, “She likes to try to bump me with her head.” Her Dad quickly changed the subject. I should have known at that moment that there was a troublemaker in my trailer, but she was already loaded and I had made up my mind she was coming home. Because you can train the naughty out of them, right??
She now needed a name. Since her breed originated from the Isle of Jersey which is off the coastlines of England and France, I wanted a European name. “Gigi” was an appropriate name. It suited her sassy personality.
After we brought her home, I began to halter break her. Definitely not an easy thing to do with an animal who has an attitude, but eventually she gave in. So far she holds the record for being the most stubborn, oh but I do love her dearly.
Gigi Has A Baby
The man I bought her from asked me to wait till she was a year and a half old before I bred her. I honored that and waited, which put us breeding Gigi mid-winter. We tried using a mobile AI tech, but she didn’t settle. So I decided to load Gigi up and took her to a vet who specialized in AI and Embryo Transfers, and was familiar with Jersey cows. He got the job done and she was to have a calf that fall.
After Gigi freshened for the first time, I began to learn the challenges of training a first calf heifer to stand for milking. I had built a stanchion in the corner of her barn and began feeding her grain and alfalfa while I milked her.
Her ornery cow personality started becoming out. The challenge was on.
I didn’t have any hobbles to use on her, so I just milked with one hand and held on to the bucket with the other for a quick milk bucket rescue when needed. Man, she was a fast kicker! I now completely understood why someone would “cry over spilled milk”. I do remember a time or two of rubbing her flank apologetically after I’d walloped her for kicking at me. Over time we did end up working out our differences and got into some sort of routine.
The Long Long Trailer
My rancher man and I got married the following year. I had told him that my dowry included a horse and a Jersey cow. He tried to convince me that in order to bring her on the ranch I’d have to paint her black to blend in with the Angus cattle. Very funny.
After our honeymoon in Vancouver, B.C., we loaded up my cow, horse, and belongings in our pickup and trailer, and drove them half way across the country. A cow and pony show driving from Washington to Nebraska. I have family in Montana who ranch, so we stopped there for a night to let the cow and horse be free from the trailer overnight.We made the trip in 2.5 days and arrived at the ranch at 4am. We were ALL ready to be home. A new home in Nebraska for three of us!
A New Home
Horse and cow unloaded from the trailer, it was time to settle in. Gigi and my horse were buddies, so initially we had them penned up together. She would spend the next year just getting fat and enjoying her new Nebraska Life.
Gigi didn’t calve again till the following June. My husband’s Grandpa’s milk barn is oh, so much better than what I had put together in Washington. It has concrete floors, several head catches, and a gutter for washing out the barn.
It was time to try Grandpa’s milking hobbles. The first day of being hobbled was a little rough. Gigi wasn’t quite sure what to think. But once she got used to it, whoa, what a difference! She no longer could try to stick her foot in the bucket, or side-step away from me. They’re very easy to put on. The chain wraps around the front of her legs and the hobbles loosely sit above her hocks. Genius! Oh my, we got along so much better with hobbles.
Somehow, milking in that barn and listening to old country gospel on the radio made me feel like I was taking a step back in time. My husband’s Grandpa had passed away before I met him, but I feel like we would have been kindred spirits.
Gigi has earned herself a bad reputation. Leave a gate open and out she goes. She has several times decided that the hay being fed to the other “good” cows in her bunch isn’t as exciting as the dead grass growing just beyond the fence. Oh the troubles she gives us. Check out my free First-Aid for Livestock checklist if you have a ‘Gigi’ in your herd!
Even with all of her challenges, Gigi has provided a lot of milk for our family (and many others). The story of my Jersey cows continues as this past spring I decided to add a new Jersey girl to my herd. You can read all about Mabel the Jersey here.
I have many more stories of Gigi to tell…this is just our beginning.